Film Review: MIDNIGHT RETURN: THE STORY OF BILLY HAYES AND TURKEY (USA 2015) ***

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Midnight Return: The Story of Billy Hayes and Turkey Poster
Trailer

The documentary, “Midnight Return” explores the enduring and emotional power of film as seen through the lens of the blockbuster success, “Midnight Express”.

 

An incredibly watchable movie because of is subject and also because it is derived from one of the most controversial films of all time, Alan Parker’s MIDNIGHT EXPRESS that was written by Oliver Stone.

MIDNIGHT EXPRESS is the slang for prison escape.  MIDNIGHT EXPRESS is the American extremely box-office successful prison drama that tells the real life prison escape of 23-year old American Billy Hayes from a Turkish prison in the 70’s.  Billy Hayes was jailed for smuggling a large amount of hashish across the Turkish border.  MIDNIGHT RETURN, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, explores the making of the cult classic Academy Award winning film MIDNIGHT EXPRESS as well as the international controversy it started with Turkey and the true story around Billy Hayes’ infamous imprisonment for drug smuggling.

Based on True events!  This does not mean that the film is 100% or even 50% true, as in the case of the film MIDNIGHT EXPRESS.  Hayes’ escape from prison was glorified while Turkey put down as one of the worst places in the world to live in. 

MIDNIGHT RETURN tackles three issues.  First is the life of the film’s real life hero Hayes, as he benefits from the riches from telling his story.  Second is the filmmakers’ points of view.  Writer Oliver Stone who won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay saw his career advanced by the film.  Director Alan Parker reveals that he and Stone never got along despite the film’s success.  The third issue is the Turks who have been shamed from the film, which has grown even more popular after Turkey protests.

It is advisable that one sees MIDNIGHT EXPRESS before (if not, at least after) watching the doc, so that the audience can get a good perspective of the issues in MIDNIGHT RETURN.

The doc features the real Billy Hayes in almost very scene.  Hayes loves the camera and is more than keen to tell is story, in the making of both the doc and in the original MIDNIGHT EXPRESS movie.  He puts a real person into the story and makes the film both believable and personal.  He is also quite a good-looker, very much like the actor Brad Davis (who died of AIDs in 1991) who portrayed him in the film.

To make her film more entertaining, director Sussman injects some insight and humour, especial in the making of the film.  It is revealed for one that the prosecutor apparently babbling at Hayes in the courtroom in what is assumed to be Turkish is not, but a combination of Turkish and other languages.  Parker said he wanted the effect that Hayes would be scared at not knowing what is happening to him in court, so whatever was said was immaterial.  Parker also reveals that no one had known that it was Hayes’ 4th attempt at smuggling drugs.  If it had been known, the film wold probably never had been made.

Sussman’s trails Hayes’ revisit to Turkey as the film’s climax.  In this, she reveals the inner personality of Hayes and what kind of man he is.   In the process, Sussman also demonstrates how life could be dramatically altered from a single event.  The film ends on a light note with Hayes describing how he got his medical marijuana license.

The insightful and entertaining MIDNIGHT RETURN: THE STORY OF BILLY HAYES AND TURKEY will be opening theatrically in Toronto on January 30th. 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJEATMUHATY

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